Caring for Students Playbook: Getting Started With Key Terms, Challenges, and Approaches

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Caring for Students Playbook: Getting Started With Key Terms, Challenges, and Approaches
Caring for
Getting Started
With Key Terms,
Challenges, and
Caring for Students Playbook: Getting Started With Key Terms, Challenges, and Approaches

                  About the Contributors
                  Key Terms in Caring for Students
                  Understanding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
                  Key Challenges for Students
                  Academic Challenges
                  Financial Challenges
                  Socio-Emotional Challenges
                  Discover New Approaches for Caring for Students
                  Culturally Responsive Teaching
                  Trauma-Informed Teaching
                  Universal Design for Learning

Caring for Students Playbook           Getting Started With Key Terms, Challenges, and Approaches | 2
Caring for Students Playbook: Getting Started With Key Terms, Challenges, and Approaches

This resource serves as a companion piece to the Caring for Students Playbook’s
Six Recommendations for Caring for Students, and provides a foundation for the
approaches and methods offered therein. The content offered here begins by setting
the groundwork for rooting instruction in diversity, equity, and inclusion before
focusing on the challenges students are experiencing as they pursue their education
in our current climate. It concludes with offering approaches that support engaging
culture, acknowledging trauma, and meeting the needs of all learners.
Caring for Students Playbook: Getting Started With Key Terms, Challenges, and Approaches
About the Contributors
Angela Gunder, Ph.D.                                              Susan Adams, M.Ed.
Chief Academic Officer and Vice President of Learning,            Associate Director of Teaching and Learning,
the Online Learning Consortium                                    Achieving the Dream

Nicole Weber, Ph.D.                                               Laurie Fladd, Ph.D.
Assistant Vice President of Learning,                             Director of Holistic Student Supports,
the Online Learning Consortium                                    Achieving the Dream

Ruanda Garth-McCullough, Ph.D.                                    Maha Bali, Ph.D.
Director of Programs,                                             Associate Professor of Practice, Center for Learning
Achieving the Dream                                               and Teaching, The American University in Cairo

Jessica Knott, Ph.D.                                              Angela M. Gibson, Ed.D.
Assistant Vice President of Community                             Lecturer, Texas A&M University-Kingsville; Contributing Faculty,
Strategy, Experience, and Management,                             University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences
the Online Learning Consortium
                                                                  Zeren Eder, M.A.
Jennifer Rafferty, M. Ed.                                         Senior Instructional Designer,
Director of the Institute for Professional Development,           the Online Learning Consortium
the Online Learning Consortium
                                                                  Kaitlin Garrett, M.A.
Jonathan Iuzzini, M.A.                                            Instructional Designer,
Director of Teaching and Learning,                                the Online Learning Consortium
Achieving the Dream

This companion piece to the Caring for Students Playbook is a collaboration between the Online Learning
Consortium (OLC), Achieving the Dream (ATD), and the Every Learner Everywhere Network. It is designed
to provide instructors with concrete strategies that can be implemented to support students during this
exceptionally challenging time in their lives and beyond as we enter a post-inoculation world.
We would like to thank the contributors who helped to guide the initial work on this playbook — Dr. Lynette
O’Keefe and Ms. Kate Lee McCarthy. We would also like to extend a thank you to those who reviewed this
playbook and offered their feedback to make this a useful and actionable guide for instructors across
the globe —
          ­ Tia Holiday, Rachael Durham, Laurie Heacock, Kelly Delaney-Klinger, Patricia O’Sullivan, and
Tynan Gable.

  Citing this Playbook
  Adams, S., Bali, M., Eder, Z., Fladd, L., Garrett, K., Garth-McCullough, R., Gibson, A. M., Gunder, A., Iuzzini, J., Knott,
  J. L., Rafferty, J. & Weber, N. L. (2021 June 8). Caring for Students Playbook: Getting Started with Key Terms and
  Challenges. Every Learner Everywhere.

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Caring for Students Playbook: Getting Started With Key Terms, Challenges, and Approaches
Key Terms in Caring
for Students

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) forms the foundation for developing and
delivering courses that provide caring, supportive environments for all students.
But what is DEI and how can it be applied to teaching and learning?

DRIVING QUESTIONS     As you reflect on the recommendations within this section, we invite
                      you to reflect on the following key reflection questions, using the
                      answers to help develop a concrete road map of actions to take right
                      away, in the near future, and as an ongoing practice:

                      • As I design and facilitate my courses, how do I
                        acknowledge privilege, integrate diverse perspectives,
                        and celebrate assets?
                      • How can I identify and mitigate barriers to help make an
                        inclusive learning environment for my students?
                      • What can I do to help students feel like they belong to our
                        institution and in my courses?

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Key Terms in Caring for Students

                  Understanding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
                  The crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic forced many institutions of higher education to
                  take stock of their diversity, equity, and inclusion policies, processes and practices.
                  Institutions made intentional and targeted investments to ensure that their most vul-
                  nerable students had what they needed to stay enrolled, access course material, and
                  connect to student support resources. For many colleges and universities, the global
                  and national events of spring 2020 prompted them to renew their diversity, equity,
                  and inclusion (DEI) work to bridge the digital and social divide among their student
                  body. In order for DEI work to be fully effective and to have the ability to transform
                  the student experience, it must occur outside and inside of the classroom and affect
                  structural, procedural, and attitudinal changes.



                    Diversity: Having different types of people from a wide range of identities with different
                    perspectives, experiences, etc. (Source: Merriam-Webster)

                    Equity: Removing the predictability of success or failure that currently correlates with
                    any social or cultural factor (such as race), examining biases, and creating inclusive
                    environments. (Adopted from: National Equity Project)

                    Inclusion: Putting diversity into action by creating an environment of involvement, respect,
                    and connection – where the richness of ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives are harnessed
                    to create value. (Source: Diversity Journal)

                  As student populations increase in relation to race, ethnicity, nationality,
                  socioeconomic status, age, language, religion, ability, sexual orientation, gender
                  identity, and more, it is important to create space in readings, assignments, and
                  classroom processes that reflect and validate students’ diverse identities.
                  Here are some ideas to get started:
                     • acknowledge privilege through courageous conversations;
                     • shift from a color-blind perspective to one that acknowledges race
                       consciousness; and
                     • move from deficit thinking to asset thinking.

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Key Terms in Caring for Students

                  Where diversity initiatives speak to access and representation, equity initiatives
                  highlight the need to interrogate and dismantle the structural racism and systemic
                  poverty that reproduce historic and persistent inequities that manifest in teaching
                  and learning processes.
                  Currently, equity is a trendy buzzword in education, and it is often misused and
                  more often misunderstood. The University of Southern California’s Center for Urban
                  Education has created a short series of images to help illuminate the concept of
                  equity in a way that informs action that is aligned with the principle and distinguishes
                  it from other related values:

                                                        Images Source:

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Key Terms in Caring for Students

                  The terms “equity” and “equality” are often used interchangeably but understanding
                  the distinction between these two concepts is critical to resolving issues that
                  minoritized students face in the classroom. While many educational programs and
                  interventions strive for equality, this implies that there is a level playing field and if
                  everyone is treated the same, everyone will have what they need to be successful.
                  Equality does not take into account that some students have to navigate ineffective
                  institutions, discriminatory policies, structural barriers, and inadequate academic
                  and social supports in order to secure an education. These images also show the
                  limitations of diversity as an end goal since increasing access to a biased and racist
                  system does not remove the predictability of success associated with students’
                  social or cultural identities. The broken ladder and the repaired ladder images
                  speak directly to the central aspect of equity that requires educators to identify,
                  critically evaluate, and change the policies and practices that students experience as
                  inequitable barriers to their persistence and success.
                  Equity-minded teaching practices offer targeted support to students that address
                  and mitigate the specific barriers they encounter by providing resources that meet
                  their needs. Equity has the power and potential to significantly impact academic,
                  economic, and social opportunities of students who have been at best ignored and at
                  worst treated unjustly throughout their educational experiences. Equity work requires
                  thoughtful and intentional effort to identify and address specific issues that targeted
                  groups or individuals experience in the learning environment.
                  What can be done at the course level to support equity in students’ learning
                  experiences? Equity-minded practice requires educators to acknowledge that
                  traditional academic curricula privileges students who have academic, social,
                  financial, and cultural advantages. As institutions of higher learning were
                  intentionally built for Eurocentric, upper-class, Christian males, it is important to
                  identify ways to include students’ diverse backgrounds, experiences, interests,
                  and ways of knowing to create more equitable student outcomes. To take this into
                  account in your teaching, you might try:
                     • Naming and identifying specific groups, as well as acknowledging
                       intersectionality instead of using coded language;
                     • Transitioning from a traditional, one-size-fits-all curriculum to one that supports
                       culturally responsive teaching practices (See the section “Discover New
                       Approaches for Caring for Students” later in this resource); and
                     • Acknowledging white fragility and adopting anti-racist practices.

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Key Terms in Caring for Students

                  Inclusion involves authentically bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/
                  or groups into processes and activities in a way that shares power and ensures
                  equal access to opportunities and resources. To do this, consider ways to integrate
                  strategies into your teaching that support students in feeling like they belong in
                  higher education and help them gain the skills they need to be successful in this
                  environment. You can promote caring through inclusion by:
                     • Helping students to overcome imposter syndrome and sharing stories of self-doubt;
                     • Reducing stereotype threat and supporting students’ sense of value, belonging,
                       growth mindset, and metacognition; and
                     • Decreasing microaggressions and offering micro-affirmations.


                      Diversity: To support the work instructors are doing in their courses, institutions must
                      also increase diversity efforts. Institutions can do this by hiring instructors who reflect
                      the student population and inviting a wide range of students’ identities into campus-wide
                      initiatives and governance to empower different perspectives in decision-making.

                      Equity: Institutions can help instructors in this work by providing professional development
                      events to create awareness and assist with implementation of equity-minded teaching
                      practices. Beyond this, “colleges must routinely scrutinize structural barriers to equity
                      and invest in equity-minded policies, practices, and behaviors that lead to success for all
                      students” (Achieving the Dream, 2021).

                      Inclusion: Institutions can encourage instructors, staff, and students in reflecting on
                      unconscious bias and managing unconscious bias through mindful inclusion.

 ACTION ROAD MAP      The following steps can be taken as a means of familiarizing yourself with approaches
                      that support diversity, equity, and inclusion:

                                NOW                           NEXT                          LATER

                      Support your students         Analyze your course           Work with your institution
                      who may be struggling         content and activities,       to create a culture that
                      with imposter syndrome        updating them for a           supports a growth
                      by sharing your own story     diversity of perspectives     mindset.
                      of self-doubt.                and lived experiences.

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Key Terms in Caring for Students

 ADDITIONAL           R Diversity Toolkit: A Guide to Discussing Identity, Power, and Privilege
 RESOURCES              This guide provides a training framework, focusing on context and activities, to enable
                        productive discourse around issues of diversity and the role of identity in relationships.

                      R Everyday Ableism: Unpacking Disability Stereotypes and Microaggressions
                        This video discusses how stereotypes and microaggressions shape the disability
                        experience and inform our personal and professional behaviors and attitudes.

                      R Why Gender Pronouns Matter
                        This video examines the importance of using pronouns to show support,
                        acknowledgment, and respect for one’s gender identity.

                      R EDUCAUSE Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Resources
                        In this resource, EDUCAUSE supports individuals in educating themselves on DEI
                        practices and cultivating DEI within teams. In addition, EDUCAUSE also addresses DEI
                        and Empowering Students.

                      R The Anti-Racist Discussion Pedagogy
                        This is an introductory guide on how to build an anti-racist pedagogy in any discipline
                        through instructor reflection, clear communication guidelines, and inquiry-based

Caring for Students Playbook                      Getting Started With Key Terms, Challenges, and Approaches | 10
Key Challenges
for Students

In the current higher education landscape, students are experiencing heightened
academic, financial, and social-emotional challenges. Underlying each of these
challenges is a focus on equitable access and success, and in the current environ-
ment, equity is more critical than ever ­— and the intersections of academic, finan-
cial, and social-emotional support are in the spotlight.
Many instructors are aware of these challenges and have engaged in supportive
student care practices prior to the pandemic. However, COVID-19 has seen these
challenges increase, and on top of new professional demands in remote and
online teaching, working from home and/or being prepared to (again) rapidly shift
work environments, and managing personal stressors, helping students through
these challenges can seem a daunting task.

DRIVING QUESTIONS     As you reflect on the recommendations within this section, we invite
                      you to reflect on the following key reflection questions, using the
                      answers to help develop a concrete road map of actions to take right
                      away, in the near future, and as an ongoing practice:

                      • What academic challenges are students in my courses
                        most likely to encounter and what resources can I share
                        to support them?
                      • How can I make content and technology choices in a
                        way that does not create financial barriers for students
                        in my courses?
                      • How can I incorporate social and emotional wellness into
                        my courses?

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Key Challenges for Students

                  Academic Challenges
                  As the pandemic began, institutions shifted their operations virtually. In some cases,
                  this meant that institutions developed processes and redesigned their services (e.g.,
                  library, tutoring, centers for students with disabilities, teaching and learning centers)
                  to support students academically practically overnight.
                  The onset of COVID-19 in spring 2020 resulted in a rapid shift to emergency remote
                  teaching, which provided academic continuity, but strained academic supports that
                  were previously campus-based and often unable to include intentional design for
                  effective online teaching and learning. Additionally, both students and instructors
                  faced challenges with effective use of technology and access to adequate devices
                  and Internet connections. These challenges were addressed in detail in the Delivering
                  High-Quality Instruction Online in Response to COVID-19: Faculty Playbook. An
                  updated version of the Faculty Playbook, Optimizing High-Quality Digital Learning
                  Experiences, is available on the Every Learner Pillar Resources page. This resource,
                  the Caring for Students Playbook, provides a more nuanced focus on equity-based
                  academic instructional practices through a lens of holistic care of students.

                  Financial Challenges
                  Adequate financial support for tuition, fees, and living expenses has always been
                  a key piece of equitable access and optimal opportunity for student success. The
                  COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic impact, both immediate and ongoing,
                  has increased financial need and underscored the critical role that financial support
                  plays in addressing equity gaps.
                  Federal, state, and local/institutional initiatives responded to the pandemic quickly,
                  and many institutions were able to provide additional financial support to students as
                  well as meet needs with regard to technology required for remote learning. However,
                  economic disparity and insecurity continues to impact students, particularly students
                  who are poverty-impacted, first-generation, and racially minoritized.
                  Ongoing financial support and awareness of the economic landscape is necessary to
                  address need, equity, student access and student success. While instructors are not in
                  a position to directly impact financial support, it is important to be aware of the finan-
                  cial challenges that may exist for students and be able to connect them with existing
                  resources to support them. Instructors can be key connectors between students and
                  support, such as emergency resources that the institution offers. Additionally, normal-
                  izing the use of support by addressing it as a part of the student journey can reduce
                  stigma and make students more comfortable seeking support when they need it.

                  Socio-Emotional Challenges
                  While institutions have provided socio-emotional support for students, these
                  efforts have also needed amplification during the pandemic as students have
                  an increased need to seek physical and mental health services remotely. Overall

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Key Challenges for Students

                  need has increased and is particularly evident among student populations that are
                  disproportionately impacted by the health crisis, economic instability, and racial
                  tensions present in the current social climate.
                  As an instructor, you can support students’ social-emotional well-being through
                  awareness of the challenges and connecting students with available resources
                  and, more directly, through implementing teaching practices that proactively create
                  optimal and equitable learning environments.
                  Integrating institutional supports that address academic, financial, and socio-
                  emotional challenges into courses and related coursework is a key step for
                  supporting students as they engage with their challenges. Read more about how to
                  do this in the action road map below and in the Caring for Students Playbook: Six
                  Recommendations for Caring for Students.

 ACTION ROAD MAP      The following steps can be taken as a means of familiarizing yourself with approaches
                      that provide support for students as they face their challenges:

                                NOW                          NEXT                          LATER

                      Post a message in            Integrate the use of insti-    Work with your institution
                      your LMS course site         tutional support services      to create a resource mod-
                      encouraging self-care        (e.g., Writing Center or tu-   ule for your LMS course
                      and reach out to students    toring) into a course as-      site that all instructors
                      who may be struggling.       signment or bring guest        can use to increase stu-
                                                   speakers from support          dent awareness of insti-
                                                   areas into your class.         tutional supports.

 ADDITIONAL           R Lessons from Formerly Incarcerated Students During COVID-19
 RESOURCES              This article explores how institutions can assist instructors in supporting formerly
                        incarcerated students through professional development opportunities that address
                        social justice, psychological impacts, and the digital divide.

                      R COVID-19 Response for Students Who are Homeless or With Experience in Foster Care
                        This guide shares concrete tips and resources that can be used to support students who
                        are homeless or in foster care to promote health and educational success.

                      R Increasing Access to Financial Aid for Homeless Youth in COVID-19
                        This website provides background information regarding unaccompanied homeless
                        youth, common causes, and how COVID-19 has exacerbated challenges for this

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Discover New Approaches
for Caring for Students

As you consider how to support students as they overcome their challenges
and work to apply diversity, equity, and inclusion to your teaching, you may find
adopting the subsequent approaches to be useful. These approaches focus on
reflecting on one’s teaching practices and implementing strategies that support
engaging culture, acknowledging trauma, and meeting the needs of all learners.

DRIVING QUESTIONS     As you reflect on the recommendations within this section, we invite
                      you to reflect on the following key reflection questions, using the
                      answers to help develop a concrete road map of actions to take right
                      away, in the near future, and as an ongoing practice:

                      • As I design my course and interact with students, am I
                        engaging their social and cultural identities, individual
                        experiences, and prior experiences?
                      • As I facilitate my courses, am I recognizing my students’
                        emotional and physical well-being?
                      • Are my students able to access and participate in
                        meaningful learning opportunities?

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Discover New Approaches for Caring for Students

                  Culturally Responsive Teaching
                  Culturally responsive teaching engages the social and cultural identities of students
                  in the design of the teaching and learning process by involving students’ lived
                  experiences and prior knowledge. Teacher educator Zaretta Hammond defines
                  culturally responsive teaching as:

                     An educator’s ability to recognize students’ cultural displays of learning and
                     meaning making and respond positively and constructively with teaching moves
                     that use cultural knowledge as a scaffold to connect what the student knows to
                     new concepts and content in order to promote effective information processing.
                     All the while, the educator understands the importance of being in a relationship
                     and having a social-emotional connection to the student in order to create a safe
                     space for learning.” (Hammond, 2015, p. 15)

                  Culturally responsive pedagogy is an instructional equity approach that utilizes
                  inclusive curriculum design in ways that connect the socio-emotional and
                  information processing realms.
                  To apply culturally responsive teaching to your courses, you can start by reflecting
                  on culture as a cognitive tool, analyze how culture and diversity are portrayed
                  and positioned in the curriculum, and examine how students’ cultures and lived
                  experiences are positioned in the curriculum.

                  Reflect on culture as a cognitive tool
                  Cultural displays are often included in the curriculum as tangential or surface-level
                  “feel good” features an effort to engage or motivate students. However, you can po-
                  sition cultural knowledge as a cognitive tool to support performance and scaffold
                  learning in your courses in multiple ways, through culturally responsive pedagogy.
                  This approach requires paying persistent attention to the social and cultural capital
                  that African American, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous, first-generation, poverty-impacted,
                  English language learners, non-gender conforming, and other minoritized students
                  bring to the learning process. Culturally responsive pedagogy creates space within
                  the curriculum that includes and/or invites cultural displays (norms, values, beliefs,
                  language, tradition and art, etc.) in the teaching practices and learning activities of
                  the course in meaningful and authentic ways. By foregrounding students’ culture in
                  course materials, assessments, and teaching processes, you create opportunities for
                  students to connect new material to their prior knowledge and existing cultural sche-
                  mas, which strengthens comprehension and retention (Aronson & Laughter, 2016).
                  As an asset-based approach that engages and validates students’ culturally bound
                  prior knowledge, culturally responsive pedagogy calls for learning about students’
                  cultures and backgrounds in ways that traditional teaching does not. Once equipped
                  with a deeper understanding of students’ cultures and prior knowledge, you can
                  intentionally design a curriculum that centers cultural knowledge in ways that
                  support and scaffold learning.

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Discover New Approaches for Caring for Students

                  As with any culturally informed practice, culturally responsive teaching begins with
                  engaging in self-awareness work to uncover biases, taking an honest inventory of
                  your intent and impact of anti-racist practices in each aspect of your pedagogy, as
                  well as assessing to what extent the structure, policies, and processes within your
                  course privilege subgroups of students (Cochran, et al., 2017; McNair, Bensimon,
                  Malcolm-Piqueux, 2020).
                  The Cultural Responsiveness Self-Assessment instrument offers a bank of questions
                  that guide introspection into equity-minded teaching practices. Another useful
                  resource to determine areas of strength and opportunity for situating culture as a
                  cognitive tool in your course is the Beyond Celebrating Diversity: 20 Things I Will Do
                  to Be an Equitable Educator list. This list from the Equity Literacy Institute describes
                  the paradigm shifts that culturally responsive design requires.

                  Analyze how culture and diversity are portrayed and
                  positioned in the curriculum
                  Traditional curriculum reflects and privileges the Eurocentric, male, middle-to-
                  upper class, and Christian experience by presenting this perspective as normative.
                  Culturally responsive curriculum design expects that educators disrupt that narrative
                  by interrogating their curriculum and evaluating the voices that are represented in
                  the curriculum. A fundamental process is to survey the curriculum to determine
                  who is represented in the curriculum. This can be accomplished by an assessment
                  of the race of the authors of the assigned readings, the gender of the key figures in
                  the discipline that is featured, or the intersectionality of the social identities of the
                  characters in the texts.
                  The NYU Metro Center developed the Culturally Responsive Curriculum Scorecard,
                  which can be used to analyze how culture and diversity are portrayed and positioned
                  in the curriculum. The Scorecard can help guide you in taking a deep look into the
                  content of the curriculum to critically analyze whose knowledge the curriculum
                  privileges, and if and how different groups are being portrayed. This tool is organized
                  in three sections: Representation, Social Justice and Instructor’s Materials and can be
                  customized to the context of various disciplines and courses.

                  Examine how students’ cultures and lived experiences are
                  positioned in the curriculum
                  Many high-impact and evidence-based practices such as inquiry-based learning,
                  problem-based learning, and service learning provide ample instructional
                  opportunities to center and amplify cultural knowledge. Each of these active teaching
                  methodologies provide agency, choice, and space for students to take ownership of
                  their own learning and focus on questions or problems that relate to their culturally
                  embedded lives and/or their community.

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Discover New Approaches for Caring for Students

                  As an instructor, you can play a powerful role when your teaching models the use of
                  different cultural examples, validates various ways of knowing, calls out deficit-based
                  ideologies, or connects content to an issue of injustice. Through intentional use of
                  culturally relevant information, you can invite students’ cultural and lived experiences
                  into the teaching and learning process. This can be achieved by including a
                  requirement within an authentic assessment that involves students to assess the
                  content in relation to cultural dynamics and/or social justice issues. It is important
                  to explicitly communicate that cultural knowledge is viewed as a credible source in
                  order to counteract the years of messaging that many students have received that
                  their cultural knowledge is not welcomed as a part of the learning process.
                  Rockford Aguilar-Valdez (2015) developed a Rubric for Culturally Responsive
                  Lessons/Assignments that serves as a guide to assessing an assignment on a few
                  key dimensions of culturally responsive pedagogy. The instrument includes criteria
                  for voice, differentiation, access, connection, higher order thinking, social justice, and

                  Trauma-Informed Teaching
                  As Karen Costa notes in her popular post Cameras Be Damned, CDC data
                  estimates that two-thirds of your students in any course you teach are in the
                  category of humans who have a history of trauma. This means that those students
                  are individuals who have “an event, series of events, or set of circumstances
                  that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-
                  threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and
                  mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being [1].” The CDC offers six
                  guiding principles developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
                  Administration (SAMHSA) that should guide the creation of trauma-informed learning
                    1. Safety
                    2. Trustworthiness and transparency
                    3. Peer support
                    4. Collaboration and mutuality
                    5. Empowerment voice and choice
                    6. Cultural, historical, and gender issues
                  Costa’s recent presentation at an Online Learning Consortium conference helped
                  define trauma-informed teaching practices in higher education. She has also
                  developed a trauma-informed teaching checklist that can guide you. Along with the
                  CDC guiding principles, these are excellent places to get started if you are new to
                  trauma-informed teaching.

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                  Engage empathy
                  There are so many factors that impact our students’ daily lives, and it is not possible
                  to control them all. However, as educators, applying empathetic principles to
                  instruction and the learning experience can sometimes be enough. As Costa notes
                  in her work, there are considerations for the scope of an educator’s practice in
                  trauma-aware learning spaces. For example, while educators can be empathetic to
                  student needs, they should not consider themselves counselors or therapists for
                  their students. Further, while educators can (and perhaps should) assume that there
                  is likely at least one student in their classroom at any given time with a history of
                  trauma, they should not place themselves in the role of investigator or diagnostician,
                  sussing out those traumatic experiences. Understanding and respecting your scope
                  of practice is important for the well-being of both the students and you as the
                  Another way to engage empathy is to start each class session with an intentional
                  time of reflection, a check-in, of sorts. A few prompts you may consider:
                     • On a scale of 1–10, with 1 being “awful” and 10 being “amazing” how are you
                       doing today?
                     • Share one word to describe how you’re feeling today as we start our work
                     • I am ________ for class today.

                  Consider flexibility in your syllabus and assignments
                  and co-create whenever possible
                  Knowing that assignments are not “all or nothing” can help create the sense of
                  safety that the CDC recommends, especially in online environments. One way to help
                  normalize a safe and approachable online learning environment is by incorporating
                  elements of humanizing online education, a concept popularized by Dr. Michelle
                  Pacansky-Brock. Consider ways to design your course that provide students with
                  choice in how they demonstrate their learning. Giving students options to choose
                  between voice, text, and video formats can increase their intrinsic motivation. This
                  infographic, How to Humanize Your Online Class (Pacansky-Brock, T&L Innovations
                  @ CI, n.d.), offers additional ideas for how you can design your courses.
                  Beth McMurtrie shared tips about trauma-informed teaching strategies in an article
                  in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled, What Does Trauma-Informed Teaching
                  Look Like? Individuals who have experienced trauma also find comfort in the feeling
                  of having some control over their environments and autonomous choices.
                     • What assignments might lend themselves to seeking student input? Are there
                       opportunities to build open pedagogy into the learning experience by co-creating
                       the discussion or writing prompts with your students?

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Discover New Approaches for Caring for Students

                     • Is ungrading an option for your course? Dr. Jesse Stommel’s work in ungrading
                       prompts us to interrogate why we grade and what outcomes we’re hoping to
                       achieve. He also prepared this ungrading FAQ, which offers a look at some
                       ways that, as a pedagogical practice, it might serve as a means for inviting your
                       students into their educational experience. Inside Higher Education published
                       a recent article highlighting different faculty experiences with the practice, and
                       what they took away from it.

                  Invite sharing, set boundaries
                  There are ways you can help foster safer spaces for your students to share online by
                  setting boundaries and prioritizing care in your online classroom. For example:
                     • Consider employing alternatives to requiring cameras for students to prove
                       engagement in class. Employ polls, discussion prompts, and other means when
                     • Encourage acceptance and celebration of diverse perspectives, cultural
                       backgrounds, and identities.
                  Guide and model positive interactions and the importance of the breakthroughs that
                  can occur from difficult conversations or challenging our biases. Critical dialogue
                  does not always feel good while it is happening, but the outcomes and shared
                  understanding are worth the effort it takes to participate and model them. ASCD
                  offers this helpful resource for creating safe digital spaces and, while it is written
                  with K-12 teachers as the primary audience, the same techniques can apply to digital,
                  blended, and face-to-face higher education classrooms as well.

                    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

                    The following resources will provide you with more information about Trauma-Informed Teaching:

                    R Trauma-Informed Practices for Postsecondary Education: A Guide
                      This guide is intended to raise awareness of trauma in postsecondary education
                      institutions, help educators understand how trauma affects learning and development,
                      and provide practical advice for how to work efficiently with college students who have
                      been exposed to trauma.

                    R Trauma-Informed Teaching and Learning in Times of Crisis
                      In this presentation, Janice Carello explains what it means to be trauma-informed, why
                      it is important to college educators (especially during times of crisis), what TI college
                      teaching looks like, what you can do to be more TI, and what you can do moving forward.

                    R Developing a Trauma-Informed Lens in the College Classroom and Empowering
                      Students through Building Positive Relationships
                      This paper emphasizes the importance of creating a safe and empowering environment
                      in college classrooms regardless of what subjects we teach.

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                  Universal Design for Learning
                  Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of educational guidelines that reduces
                  barriers to learning and takes into consideration learner variability. A critical
                  cornerstone of the UDL guidelines is providing choices for students to personalize
                  their learning experiences while simultaneously providing them with the tools and
                  strategies they need to become expert learners.
                  You can apply UDL to your teaching by facilitating the development of expert
                  learners, designing course content using UDL principles, and reflecting on how UDL
                  strategies align with socially just educational practices.

                  Facilitate the development of expert learners
                  UDL guidelines highlight the importance of developing expert learners. Meyer,
                  Rose, & Gordon (2014) define expert learners as being purposeful and motivated,
                  resourceful and knowledgeable, and strategic and goal-directed.
                  The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) proposes 5 Tips for Fostering
                  Expert Learners.
                    1. Support relevant goal-setting by establishing SMART goals (specific;
                       measurable; attainable; relevant; and timely) as a framework.
                    2. Communicate high expectations for all and recognize variability, and try using
                       “wise feedback”.
                    3. Promote disciplinary expertise, such as modeling and discussing with students
                       how subject matter experts engage in their discipline.
                    4. Focus on the process, not just the outcome. Provide mastery-oriented feedback
                       by focusing effort, persistence, and the development of strategies that can be
                       employed when students face challenges.
                    5. Guide self-reflection by integrating reflection activities into your course to
                       activate prior knowledge, and foster metacognition and competency.

                  Design course content using UDL Principles
                  The UDL framework is organized into three principles which are aligned to learning
                  networks in the brain: the affective network, the recognition network, and the
                  strategic network. All three of these networks must be activated in order for learning
                  to take place (Novak & Thibodeau, 2016).

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                  Multiple means of engagement — the Affective Network
                  The affective network is responsible for learners’ motivation and interest in learning,
                  it is the “why” of learning. Try employing the following strategies (CAST, 2018) to
                  activate this network:
                     • Invite students to participate in the design of course activities.
                     • Provide opportunities for students to reflect and give feedback on the activities
                       in the course.
                     • Design activities that are socially and culturally relevant as well as
                       contextualized to students’ lives.
                     • Ensure that content and activities are appropriate for different racial, cultural,
                       ethnic, and gender groups.
                     • Foster a welcoming and inclusive class environment.
                  For more strategies that activate the affective network, visit CAST’s resources on
                  Multiple Means of Engagement.

                  Multiple means of representation — the Recognition Network
                  The recognition network is responsible for how learners gather and make sense of
                  information they see, hear, or read. It is the “what” of learning. Consider the following
                  strategies to activate this network (CAST, 2018):
                     • Provide written transcripts and captioning for audio and video content.
                     • Ensure you include descriptions (text or spoken) for all images, graphics, video,
                       or animations.
                     • Activate prior knowledge or provide important prerequisite concepts with
                       demonstrations or models.
                     • Use graphic symbols with alternative text descriptions.
                  For additional strategies that activate the recognition network, visit CAST’s resources
                  on Multiple Means of Representation.

                  Multiple means of action & expression — the Strategic Network
                  The strategic network is responsible for the planning and performing of tasks. This
                  network is associated with the “how” of learning. Consider trying some of these
                  strategies to activate the strategic network (CAST, 2018):
                     • Provide alternatives for students to respond to assignments where appropriate
                       and relevant. When possible, give them the choice of alternative modalities
                       which can include audio, video, or text.
                     • Use prompts and feedback that will develop self-monitoring and reflection skills.

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                     • Assess student work with rubrics and provide examples of assignments that can
                       serve as models for students.
                     • Expand executive function by scaffolding assignments with checklists, graphic
                       organizers and notetaking guides.
                  For additional ideas on how to activate the strategic network, visit CAST’s resources
                  on Multiple Means of Action and Expression.

                  Reflect on how UDL strategies align with socially-just
                  educational practices
                  The UDL guidelines are focused on removing barriers and personalizing the learning
                  experience and they also support the development of more equitable learning
                  environments. Chardin and Novak (2021) propose six important steps that align UDL
                  with socially just educational practices:
                    1. Identify the Barriers: The first step in this process focuses on holistically
                       identifying the barriers that exist for students. It is important to think beyond
                       barriers associated with ability and/or language and recognize that barriers of
                       race, class, gender, religion, and sexual identity may exist as well.
                    2. Embrace Variability: In order for the experience to be genuinely equitable,
                       provide students with options so they can choose how they will demonstrate
                       their learning and engage with the content.
                    3. Reflect on Biases: Biases come in different forms and everyone has them.
                       They are not always explicit so consider evaluating how they may be present in
                       instructional practices and/or course content. (See the earlier section on Key
                       Terms, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion)
                    4. Expect Discomfort: Equity work is about leaning into conversations that
                       address issues of privilege, race, class, gender identity, religion, sexual identity
                       and ability. Discussions about these topics need to be normalized so that
                       educational systems can be transformed into equitable, brave spaces for all
                    5. Amplify Student Voice: UDL is about choice and voice. Educational spaces and
                       systems need to be welcoming and celebrate differences so that students are
                       empowered to amplify their voices and share their experiences.
                    6. Take Action: Reflect on and evaluate your own thinking, practices, culture,
                       and intentions. Chardin and Novak stress the importance of valuing impact
                       over intention when striving to transform the classroom into a welcoming and
                       inclusive space.

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Discover New Approaches for Caring for Students

 ACTION ROAD MAP      The following steps can be taken as a means of familiarizing yourself with approaches
                      that put student care into practice:

                                NOW                          NEXT                         LATER

                      Engage empathy by            Design a piece of your       Work with your teaching
                      beginning your next class    course to amplify student    and learning center to
                      or module with a short       voice and increase stu-      provide instructional
                      check-in.                    dent choice.                 development opportuni-
                                                                                ties on approaches and
                                                                                strategies that support
                                                                                all students.

 ADDITIONAL           R Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and
 RESOURCES              Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students
                        In her book, Zaretta Hammond references findings of neuroscience research and
                        explores the brain-based teaching approach to culturally responsive instruction. The
                        author also has a blog titled, Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain.

                      R Six Guiding Principles to a Trauma-Aware Approach
                        This infographic, developed to train Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response
                        employees to increase their responder awareness, lists the 6 guiding principles of the
                        trauma-informed approach taught during the training.

                      R Disability as Diversity
                        A Faculty Focus article by Lilah Burke underlining that although colleges and universities
                        are “making progress on efforts to serve disabled students, they have been slow to
                        recognize disability as an identity group.”

                      R UDL Progression Rubric
                        A useful self-assessment tool to gauge one’s practice with implementing UDL. The rubric
                        identifies three levels of progress: Emerging, Proficient, and Progressing.

                      R Universal Design in Higher Education: Promising Practices
                        This digital book provides an extensive list of examples of applications of UD in higher
                        education. Article submissions for the book are peer-reviewed by members of the
                        Universal Design in Higher Education Community of Practice.

Caring for Students Playbook                      Getting Started With Key Terms, Challenges, and Approaches | 23

Understanding key terms (i.e., diversity, equity, and inclusion), challenges (i.e.,
academic, financial, and socio-emotional), and approaches (i.e., culturally
responsive teaching, trauma-informed teaching, and universal design for learning)
is an integral foundation to putting student care at the center of our learning
experiences. With this knowledge we now encourage you to visit — or revisit — the
Six Recommendations for Caring for Students Playbook. This playbook provides
practical recommendations, concrete strategies, and resources that can further
amplify your efforts in putting equity-focused, inclusive teaching into practice.
About the Supporting
                  Every Learner Everywhere is a network of twelve partner organizations with expertise in
                  evaluating, implementing, scaling, and measuring the efficacy of education technologies,
                  curriculum and course design strategies, teaching practices, and support services that
                  personalize instruction for students in blended and online learning environments. Our
                  mission is to help institutions use new technology to innovate teaching and learning,
                  with the ultimate goal of improving student outcomes for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous
                  students, poverty-affected students, and first-generation students. Our collaborative work
                  to advance equity in higher education centers on the transformation of postsecondary
                  teaching and learning. We build capacity in colleges and universities to improve student
                  outcomes with digital learning through direct technical assistance, timely resources
                  and toolkits, and ongoing analysis of institution practices and market trends. For more
                  information about Every Learner Everywhere and its collaborative approach to equitize
                  higher education through digital learning, visit

                  The Online Learning Consortium (OLC) is a collaborative community of higher education
                  leaders and innovators dedicated to advancing quality digital teaching and learning
                  experiences designed to reach and engage the modern learner — anyone, anywhere,
                  anytime. OLC inspires innovation and quality through an extensive set of resources,
                  including best-practice publications, quality benchmarking, leading-edge instruction,
                  community-driven conferences, practitioner-based and empirical research, and expert
                  guidance. The growing OLC community includes faculty members, administrators,
                  trainers, instructional designers, and other learning professionals, as well as educational
                  institutions, professional societies, and corporate enterprises. Learn more at

                  Achieving the Dream (ATD) leads a growing network of more than 300 community
                  colleges committed to helping their students, particularly low-income students and
                  students of color, achieve their goals for academic success, personal growth, and
                  economic opportunity. ATD is making progress in closing equity gaps and accelerating
                  student success through a unique change process that builds each college’s institutional
                  capacities in seven essential areas. ATD, along with nearly 75 experienced coaches
                  and advisors, works closely with Network colleges in 45 states and the District of
                  Columbia to reach more than 4 million community college students. Learn more at
         and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Caring for Students Playbook                                                 Caring for Students Playbook | 25
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